Paragon City Stories: The Carnival Without
Hosted by UNINVENTIVEHEART
Act I, Scene 1
Place: Steel Canyon
You’re sitting in Steel Canyon PPD at a conference room table. At one end of the oval table, there’s two men. One in a goatee and glasses who has looked like they’ve seen all the world has to offer. Another one who is statuesque in full metal armor that looks like a regal gladiator. On the other side are two teenagers: a young girl who is clearly hiding her intelligence behind a sneer on her face, and a boy who’s skin is all black with white eyes that is anxious as all get out to be doing something… anything.
It’s been a good 15-20 minutes after the last one of you have been seated in here, and the silence is eating away at the patience left in all of you.
Then the door opens, and Detective Martins comes inside.
“Ladies, gentlemen… we’ve got a problem on our hands.
“Back in March, we thought we’ve stopped the Carnival of Shadows. With the help of the Freedom Phalanx, we’ve captured Vanessa DeVore and her cohorts, and for a while, the deaths have stopped.
“We didn’t find bodies in the alleyways drained of all energy anymore. No more kidnappings, no more citizens calling in with Town Carnival horror stories from people who never worked there. For once, it looked like we’ve stopped them.
“That is, until this week…”, Martins trails off. That leaves you to wonder… Did the Carnival of Shadows have a “sleeper cell” that activated upon Vanessa’s capture? Is there a copycat psychic murderer out there? Is it a feint from another criminal who leaves victims the same way as she did? Or is this something new dressed up to look like the same old souljackings?
Paige brushes her hair back behind her ear and rolls her eyes, “I really don’t have the time for this. Midterms are coming this week, I have grant forms due for next school year and my housing bill is 20 percent higher this month. I’m in no mood for this static.”
… the room is full of silence for a good couple of seconds.
She exhales, “Fine, what happened?”
Martins continues, “It’s the same M.O. Victims with no correlation, no pattern, no apparent connection, dead in alleyways, behind buildings, in dumpsters. Not a single wound on their bodies, not a mark on them, but no pulse. We have autopsy back from the first victims, toxicology came back clean. If they died of natural causes, we have yet to figure out why or how.
“Someone out there is killing innocent bystanders just like the Carnival of Shadows… while Carnival of Shadows is in jail.”
Tahquitz has taken up residence in Steel Canyon for the last year and knows the area fairly well. But outside of Atlas Park, Steel Canyon, and Perez Park, he’s new to Paragon City as a transplant from California.
“How many victims have there been so far? Where have they been found?” he asks. He’s dealt with plenty in the last year in Paragon City, but past the Circle of Thorns, he hasn’t squared off against more powerful psychics yet. Understandably, there’s some trepidation on his part.
Detective Martins answers Tahquitz, “We’ve seen about 6 bodies this far. Where they were, unfortunately, are spread out. Some victims didn’t have a penny to their name and were left in high-rise dumpsters. Others were richer than Croesus and left on abandoned shores off in Talos Island for days before anyone found them.
“Of course, you’re right, Miss.” Martins looks at Paige intently, then turns around to the window looking out into the office before continuing on, “We know that being a Hero doesn’t mean the best in pay these days. So we’ve got some good news for you: we’re giving you guys access to our files and information for the next 24 hours as a Task Force to figure this out quickly. There’s a lot of spooked one-percenters who want this solved as fast and as quietly as possible, so they’re bankrolling a reward.
“If you stop this suspect and detain them, you will receive considerable compensation from the Mayor’s Office: $2 million dollars for your troubles, split equally.
“But the catch is 24 hours. If you take longer than 24 hours, or in 12 hours we have no indication that you’ve made progress, we’ll retract the reward and go public with this information paying a successful hero a more fiscally responsible $20,000 for the arrest of this suspect.
“So, it’s your call. Any further questions?”
At the mention of a reward, Devereaux smirks.
“Two million, huh? Well, I’m sold.”
Reaching into the pocket of his coat, he produces a smart phone. After a few swipes, he speaks again. “Thing is, we psychics are a paranoid bunch. Being able to read minds does that to you. We also tend to be a little elitist. Keep your circle small and all that.
After a few more taps, Devereaux turns the device in his hand, exposing the screen to those seated around the table. On it is a picture of a middle aged woman in an impeccably tailored suit.
“This is Pai Mei. She and I used to work together quite a bit back in Praetoria. As far as telepaths go, she’s one of the best. More importantly, she’s extremely well connected in our little clique. No offense to you, detective, but I’m willing to bet she can supply us with more reliable intel than the fine folks in PPD’s Psi-Division.”
“Circle? That’s cute. Haven’t had a close friend in years."
Paige mulls over what $250,000 would do for her… get out of public housing, cancel her student loan, hell, she could fund her first study with that kind of cash.
“24 hours suits me fine. If it’s anything past that, I’ll take a bow. What about you two?” Paige asks Ironrealm and Tahquitz.
Marcus’s gloved hand lay on his helmet, tracing old battle-scars as he silently watches the Heroes speak. Since the incident in his homeland Cimerora that left him stranded in the future, he noticed that most hits scarcely left marks on his armor. Nevertheless a new dent on his chest piece, courtesy of a Carnival Strongman, showed Marcus wasn’t as indestructible as he thought. And that pissed him off.
“Money holds no meaning for me.” The other Heroes start in surprise as Marcus continues arrogantly.
“As some of you know, I am not from this land. Your fragile pieces of paper don’t help me fight or catch food or-.”
“You catch your own food?” says Paige incredulously.
“The only reason I’m doing this,” Marcus looks Detective Martin. “Is because Cimerorans follow a code of honor: Protect the weak and the innocent.
“You may not be Cimerorans, but in my brief time here, in your ‘Paragon City,’ I’ve seen the same roots of evil and rebellion that existed back then. And I cannot stand idly by while defenseless people are murdered in cold blood.”
Marcus turns to Paige. “I will assist you, fellow Heroes.” He looks dubiously at Devereaux. “But as far as the award goes, I have no use for it. Split it up evenly. Burn it. I do not care.”
Finally, Marcus takes his helmet in his hands. It had seen countless fights and adventures back home. He remembered the day his father took him to the Grand Forge to make his first armor set when he was sixteen. This wasn’t the first set, of course. This was his fourth, crafted the day after traitors attacked his village and kidnapped his father.
Marcus- No… Ironrealm, as he was known by the citizens of Paragon City, dons his helmet.
“Where do we start?”
“I won’t see a penny of it until I turn eighteen, but I’m in… It’s fun being an orphan, isn’t it?”, Tahquitz said jocularly.
“So, who are we after? What grainy footage or blurry pictures have you got for us?” Tahq asks Detective Martins.
“You can’t eat honor, my friend. But hey, that’s your prerogative. I’ll be happy to spend your share when we catch whoever’s doing this” Devereaux says with a bit of a laugh.
Taking his phone from the table, he stands and begins moving toward the door. “If nobody minds, I’m going to step outside and give Pai Mei a call. You can catch me up on the briefing when I get back.”
“Everything we’ve got is in this folder.” Martins drops on the table a green hanging folder an inch thick, with overlapping reports, photos sticking out of the edges, and smaller manila folders inside. He flips it open.
Three files are slapped on the table.
"We have some leads, but they are sketchy at best.
"Mirelle McClune, our first press contact. Sweet girl, but her mind is as sharp as a tack. She’s smarter than she lets on. Thanks to her, Paragon Press has beat us to the scene on two of the victims. But since yesterday, we can’t contact her. She’s not at her apartment, and her phone goes straight to voicemail. The Paragon Press hasn’t heard from her since 28 hours ago… not enough to declare a missing persons report on, but she’s a person of interest nonetheless.
"Uder Von Trier, who is a bit of an ass. But most carnies are. His day job is eating fire, his nightlife involves spitting it, motorcycles, and easy nights with any girl who’s dumb enough to think he’s a nice guy. But he’s been useful in flagging down Carnival of Shadows hideouts in the past since he’s been infiltrated by them in his own circus, Figgs and Lee, who are just packing up and leaving town tonight on the rails… they’re heading to Woonsocket next up north.
"Harvey Maylor is our last contact, who should be familiar to you: he’s the Editor in Chief of the Paragon Tattler. The peculiar thing? Since he broke the story of Vanessa DeVore leading to her capture, he hasn’t reported on any of these victims. Strange for a tabloid rag.
"The problem? With two psychics, one missing woman, and a carnie itching to leave, there’s not enough time to go after all three of them. I’ll leave it up to you guys to figure out a plan of action.
"The last thing I can share that is missing from these files: the word 'scant' was written on a few of them. Not sure what that means.
"That’s all from us. Feel free to use this conference room, but I’m going to head to a debriefing on Dragon Ink people making our citizens into dagger holsters lately, then lunch. Good luck."
As detective Martins walks out of the conference room, Ironrealm, Paige and Tahquitz pour over the folders while waiting for Devereaux to come back from outside.